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SATYAJIT RAY : The true Indian legend (Page 2)

SHUBHAMSG IF-Dazzler
SHUBHAMSG
SHUBHAMSG

Joined: 07 January 2006
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:18am | IP Logged
Whoa there jayc1234 , you are compiling facts about RAY faster than I can read them . Smile Smile

*Jaya* IF-Sizzlerz
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:20am | IP Logged
Satyajit Ray was India's first internationally recognized film-maker and, several years after his death, still remains the most well-known Indian director on the world stage. Ray has written that he became captivated by the cinema as a young college student, and he was self-taught, his film education consisting largely of repeated viewings of film classics by de Sica, Fellini, John Ford, Orson Welles, and other eminent directors. With the release in 1955 of his first film Pather Panchali ("Song of the Road"), whose financing presented Ray with immense monetary problems, compelling him even to pawn his wife's jewelry, he brought the neo-realist movement in film to India. Little could anyone have imagined that this first film would launch Ray on one of the most brilliant careers in the history of cinema, leading eventually not only to dozens of international awards, India's highest honor, and a lifetime achievement Oscar from Hollywood, but the unusual accolade of being voted by members of the British Film Institute as one of the three greatest directors in world cinema.

Satyajit Ray was born into an illustrious family in Calcutta in 1921. His grandfather, Upendra Kishore Ray-Chaudhary, was a publisher, musician and the creator of children's literature in Bengali. His father, Sukumar Ray, was a noted satirist and India's first writer of nonsense rhymes, akin to the nonsense verse of Edward Lear. Later in life, Satyajit Ray made a documentary of his father's life. His film, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, was based on a story published by his grandfather in 1914, but even other films, such as Hirok Rajah Deshe, "The Kingdom of Diamonds", clearly drew upon his interest in children's poetry and nonsense rhymes.

Pather Panchali, based on a novel by Bibhutibhusan Banerji [Bandopadhyay], documents a family's struggle for existence in the face of a famine and the growth of the boy Apu. Ray later wrote, "I chose Pather Panchali for the qualities that made it a great book; its humanism; its lyricism; and its ring of truth . . . . The script had to retain some of the rambling quality of the novel because that in itself contained a clue to the feel of authenticity; life in a poor Bengali village does ramble." Ray went on to make two more movies on Apu (Aparajito in 1957, followed by Apur Sansar in 1960) to complete his famous Apu trilogy, though he had no thoughts of a trilogy when he embarked on the first film. The latter two movies trace the life of a young man [Apu] in Calcutta, his early marriage to a village girl, his conflict with his father, and their final reconciliation. Contemporaneous with these films were two staggering films, Devi ("The Goddess") and Jalsaghar ("The Music Room"), on the ways of the landed aristocracy in Bengal and its decline. In Devi, an elderly man has a vision that his young daughter-in-law is a goddess, and she is compelled to bear the burden of divinity; when her husband returns home from a trip, he finds his wife installed as a deity. The zeal with which a zamindar pursued his passion for music, though his estate lay crumbling around him, was the subject of Jalsaghar.


Ray's later films treated more contemporary themes like the new urban culture (Nayak in 1966, Pratidwandi in 1970, Seemabaddha in 1971, Jana Aranya in 1975). With his film Shatranj Ke Khiladi ("The Chess Players", 1977), based on a short story by the famous Hindi writer Premchand, Ray broke new ground. Here he ventured into the terrain of mid-nineteenth century India, the expansion of British rule, and what (to use a clich) might be termed the 'clash of cultures'. This film made brilliant use of color, animation, and narration; it was also Ray's maiden attempt at making a non-Bengali feature film. (His only other film in Hindi was Sadgati, produced for Indian television.) To a small extent, Shatranj Ke Khiladi drew him to the attention of the mainstream Indian film-going audience. After Shatranj Ke Khiladi, he returned to themes set in his native state of Bengal, though in Ghare Bhaire ("The Home and the World"), inspired by Tagore's novel of the same name, Ray returned in part to the theme of British colonial rule. Ray's films were characterized by a low budget, outdoor or locating shooting, authentic settings, detailed historical research, and a superb cast of actors and actresses who rose to eminent distinction under Ray's direction. The greatest names in Bengali cinema worked for Ray, and Soumitra Chatterji, who appeared in half of Ray's films, has himself recently been the subject of a long documentary film. Few of his films were commercially successful, and the greater majority were never screened outside Bengal, except at international festivals, in film clubs, and in Bangladesh. The movie he created for children, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, was his first market success and soon gained a cult following in Bengal. Ray himself never showed much interest in the popular Hindi cinema

Satyajit Ray remained a strong presence on the Bengali cultural scene all throughout his life. In 1947 he had founded the Calcutta Film Society with Chidananda Das Gupta. Though in the West he is known only as a film-maker, his reputation in his native Bengal extends to a great many other spheres. Ray was a prolific short story writer, with over a dozen volumes to his credit; and he contributed regularly to the children's journal "Sandesh", which he also edited. The exploits of his fictional character Feluda, first introduced in a series of detective stories, were avidly followed by the public, and the much-beloved Feluda was later featured in a couple of his movies. Ray, who had first worked in the advertising industry, was a major graphic designer, and designed hundreds of book jackets; he also illustrated his own books, besides those of many others. He virtually pioneered, in the Indian context, the genre of science fiction stories, and it is alleged that the script for Steven Speilberg's immensely successful E.T. was based, though unacknowledged by Speilberg, on a script that Ray had sent to him many years ago. Ray wrote a number of essays on film, some of them collected in a volume entitled Our Films, Their Films, and his films were based on the most meticulous research. He can, not unreasonably, be considered as having chronicled phases of Bengal's history from the late nineteenth century onwards, the life of urban Calcutta, and the rural landscapes of Bengal. It is also remarkable that Ray did much of the work for his own films – the screenplays were almost invariably his own, and he personally supervised, though assisted by an extraordinary crew, virtually every detail of lighting, art direction, and so on. He scored the music for some of his films (though the music for the Apu Trilogy was composed by Ravi Shankar, and for Jalsaghar by the incomparable Vilayat Khan). Not surprisingly, then, his fellow Bengalis at least thought of him as a "Renaissance Man", and he was hailed as the successor of Rabindranath Tagore.

As Ray moved from one critical success to another, championed by film critics overseas, and showered with awards at Venice, Cannes, Locarno, and Berlin, it became habitual to look upon him as the great hope of Indian cinema. His films were closely studied in film schools, and watched repeatedly by hopeful film-makers. Prominent Indian directors such as Kumar Shahani, Mani Kaul, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, and Shyam Benegal clearly showed the influence of Ray in their work. Yet he was the subject of some intense criticism. In Bengal, particularly in Calcutta, where no respectable intellectual could be other than a Marxist, Ray was charged with being a supreme representative of bourgeois culture. He had himself likened his films to the symphonies of Mozart. It is not merely the case that he had, as some people thought, a disdain for popular culture, since the Marxist aficionados of cinema were themselves not particularly fond of commercial cinema. Their hero was, and remains, Ritwik Ghatak, who made a handful of films, and was the cinematic poet of the partition; and similarly in the work of Mrinal Sen they found a director who was thought to be politically more sensitive. The 1960s and 1970s were a period of great political turmoil, and Ray was accused, as his friend Chidananda Dasgupta has written, of not showing a greater concern for the "Calcutta of the burning trains, communal riots, refugees, unemployment, rising prices and food shortages". No one would have known from Ray's films that Bengal was the seat of an armed insurrectionary movement. On the other hand, films such as Jalsaghar, with its seemingly loving portrait of a zamindar who was the last specimen of a noble class of people who lived for music and displayed a refined aesthetic sensibility, seemed utterly reactionary.

Some of the earlier criticisms of Ray's films, however, now seem misplaced and premature. It is now easier to recognize his films as politically nuanced, and Ray never made the mistake of embracing unabashedly the nationalist interpretation of Indian history. Ray tackled the difficult subject of the Bengal famine of 1943, for instance, with great sensitivity, and no one who has viewed Mahanagar or Pratidwandi can describe him as indifferent to the problems and even parodies of urban existence in modern India. But his films lend themselves to another sort of criticism. Ray's limitations were the limitations, so to speak, of the trajectory of Bengali modernity which he rather unreflectively accepted. He had a tendency, evident as much in an early film like Devi (1960) as in Ganashatru ("An Enemy of the People", after Ibsen's play of the same title), completed nearly thirty years later, to oppose modernity to tradition, rationality to superstition, and science to faith – and all this in an embarrassingly simplistic fashion, at least on occasion. Ray was unequivocally clear that he stood for science and modernity, and consequently he was incapable, as Ganashatru amply showed, of showing tradition as anything but superstition. Ray belongs to the great tradition of humanism, doubtless ennobling but, in some respects, acutely shortsighted
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:30am | IP Logged
Here are some brief summaries of some famous films of SATYAJIT RAY :


Pather Panchali, 1955
[Song of the Little Road]

A young girl named Durga (Runki Banerjee) ventures into the neighbor's orchard that was once owned by her family, and picks some guavas for her great aunt, Indir (Chunibala Devi). The neighbors detect the incident, and complain loudly of Durga's undisciplined behavior for her mother, Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) to overhear. Sarbajaya, in turn, scolds Indir for encouraging Durga's behavior, and the infuriatingly stubborn old woman packs her belongings and moves into the house of a nearby relative. But all is quickly forgiven when Sarbajaya gives birth to a son, Apu, and Indir returns home. The well-intentioned father, Hari Ray (Kanu Banerjee), has uprooted his family from the city of Banaras in order to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors - a long and well respected lineage of scholars and spiritual leaders - and he is determined to provide a good life for his family in his place of birth. But the road proves to be a difficult one. The ancestral home is in a state of disrepair. The family orchard has been relinquished in order to settle his brother's debts. Hari's employment opportunities are few and far between, and often involve spending long periods of time away from his family. It is a hard existence for the Rays, but one that is filled with love and a deep sense of loyalty to tradition and family. Hari reassures Sarbajaya that his new job and his original compositions will bring his family prosperity. However, years later, little has changed. A young Apu (Subir Bannerjee) is sent to a village school in order to learn the religious rites of his father's profession, and Durga (Uma Das Gupta), approaching the age of marriage, continues to smuggle fruit to her great aunt Indir. Sarbajaya believes that the family should return to Banaras in order to have better opportunities, and when tragedy strikes, the family makes the agonizing choice to leave the beloved village.

From the opening scene of Pather Panchali, the first film of the acclaimed Apu Trilogy, Satyajit Ray strikes a graceful balance between nostalgic idealism and poignant realism. The lyrical soundtrack sets the vitality and visual poetry of the film, and echo the long, lingering shots of the small village road. In essence, the road is the metaphor for life: from Hari's travels in search of employment, to the children's adventures following the candy vendor and searching for a train, to the family's bittersweet departure from the village. Pather Panchali is literally translated as the "Song of the Little Road". Another translation defines it as an elegy. It is neither. Pather Panchali is a serene, graceful, and haunting universal symphony - a beautiful, understated celebration of the wonder of life and the interminable courage of the human soul.


Aparajito, 1956
[The Unvanquished]

The people make their daily pilgrimage to the Ganges River: bathing in its holy waters, filling their ceremonial vessels, attending a reading of the scriptures by the entrance steps. The Ray family has left their ancestral home (in Pather Panchali) and has settled into a ground floor apartment in the city of Banaras. Hari (Kanu Banerjee) is one of many priests performing the daily ceremonies at the Holy Ganges, and times have proven to be equally difficult away from home. There are no schools in the area, and Apu (Pinaki Sen Gupta) spends his days roaming the streets, watching his father perform religious services, observing a weight lifter perform his exercises. During the evening of the town festival, Hari falls ill, perhaps from contact with a feverish guest from the previous evening. Trusting his healing powers over modern medicine, he self-prescribes medicinal herbs. When he awakens in better health on the following day, he immediately returns to the Ganges against the advice of Sarbajaya (Karuna Bannerjee), and suffers a relapse. Weakened by illness and physical exhaustion, Hari passes away. Left alone in Banaras, Sarbajaya takes a job as a cook for a wealthy family, but decides to move to a great-uncle's house in the country in order for Apu to continue his religious training. But soon, Apu is drawn to a local "western" school, and pleads with his mother to enroll him. Exposed to a brave new world of western literature and science, Apu excels in his studies and is offered a scholarship. But in order to accept the award, he must make an agonizing decision to leave home and move to Calcutta.

Satyajit Ray creates a sublime and deeply affecting portrait of the struggle between tradition and progress in Aparajito, the second film of the monumental Apu Trilogy. Embodied through the maturation of Apu at the turn of the century, Ray creates an insightful social commentary on a profoundly changing culture, reflected through Apu's dilemma between traditional and modern education; his decision to leave home in order to further his studies; his part-time job at a printing press. In abandoning his ancestral path, Apu must carve out his own uncertain destiny in Calcutta. In the end, we see Apu walking away from his great-uncle's house, down a small road, alone. Apu has embarked on another journey.




Jalsaghar, 1958
[The Music Room]

Jalsaghar opens to the shot of a large, ornate, candlelit chandelier, precariously swaying from the momentum of its cumbersome weight. It is a vestige of the fading grandeur of Huzur Biswambhar Roy's (Chhabi Biswas) cherished jalsaghar - the elegant entertainment room where guests listen to the performance of traditional musicians amid eroded columns and peeling plaster. In early twentieth century India, it is also a symptom of Roy's aristocratic obsolescence. Roy lounges on his empty rooftop terrace, overlooking his inherited property, now worthlessly reduced to marshland, staring idly into space, smoking his hookah pipe. His wealthy, but uncultured neighbor, Mahim Ganguly (Gangapada Basu), has hired traveling players for his son's Sacred Thread Ceremony, and Roy is angered by Ganguly's ostentatious display of extravagance. After being informed that Ganguly had invited him to the ceremony, Roy refuses to attend, citing Ganguly's negligence in failing to personally extend an invitation to the revered mazumdar (feudal lord). Recalling his own son Khoka's (Pinaki Sen Gupta) Sacred Thread Ceremony, Roy retreats into a world of lost memories, and reveals the sad and tragic portrait of obstinacy and hubris that led to his idle complacency, personal tragedy, and self-imposed isolation.

Satyajit Ray creates a dispassionate and objective, yet profound and engaging examination of decadence and obsolescence in Jalsaghar. By embodying subtle themes during the performance of the private concerts, Ray depicts an increasingly self-destructive pattern of excess and desperation. The first performance, in commemoration of Khoka's Sacred Thread Ceremony, is a traditional concert, and serves as a narcissistic reassurance of Roy's prominence and social stature, despite his disappearing wealth. The second performance, impetuously arranged in order to thwart Ganguly's own housewarming plans, features an enigmatic, non-native old man. Occurring amid signs of an impending, catastrophic storm, the concert serves as an ominous harbinger to an unknown, looming tragedy. The final performance, a "new" repertoire combining song and dance, is frenetic and mesmerizing, and sharply contrasts with Roy's self-indulgent lethargy. Figuratively, like the consuming rivalry between Roy and Ganguly, the familiarity of tradition has been displaced by the vitality of the modern. Inevitably, Roy is left alone to savor the intoxicating oblivion of his Phyrric victory, only to be sobered by the emergence of a spider from his portrait. Like the noble ancestors adorning the great walls of the jalsaghar, he too, is a languishing, superfluous relic.


Apur Sansar, 1959
[The World of Apu]
Times are hard in the city of Calcutta. Apu's (Soumitra Chatterjee) college funds have run dry, and he is forced to suspend his university education. After receiving a letter of introduction from a supportive professor, Apu exits the faculty office only to walk into the chaos of a student protest. It is a harbinger of his professional uncertainty. With an intermediate college education and possessing few manual skills, he is either overqualified (to paste labels on medicine bottles), or underqualified (to teach grade school children) . But there is hope. One of his stories has been accepted for publication, and a career as a writer seems to have potential. One day, he is visited by a college friend, Pulu (Swapan Mukherjee), who has been searching for him around town in order to invite him to his cousin Aparna's (Sharmila Tagore) wedding. Pulu has a job in mind for Apu, one that uses his typing skills, but Apu is reluctant to settle into a life of complacency with a "desk job". Apu reveals to Pulu that he has been working on a novel about the saga of a poor village boy. Pulu immediately recognizes the factual similarity to the author, but teases Apu on his romantic qualifications for introducing a fictitious "love interest" into the novel. Arriving to Khulna for the wedding, the bride's mother (Sefalika Devi) is charmed by the handsome, mild-mannered Apu, and flatters him with comparisons to the deity, Krishna. Secretly, one can sense that she wishes that Aparna would marry Apu instead. When the bridegroom unexpectedly arrives to the wedding in a state of mental distress, the opportunity presents itself. The family believes that Aparna will be cursed if she does not marry as planned, and Apu is asked to act as a substitute bridegroom. Apu's marriage to Aparna proves to be well suited, as the young couple settle into a blissful domestic life. However, their happiness is truncated when Aparna develops complications during childbirth. Unable to reconcile with his profound grief, Apu abandons all responsibility to wander the land in search of inner peace.

Apur Sansar is a poignant, triumphant final chapter to Satyajit Ray's epic masterpiece, the Apu Trilogy. As in Pather Panchali and Aparajito, Apu Sansar concludes with an image of Apu traveling away from the the safe and familiar surroundings of the past, facing an uncertain path to the future. It is a symbolic road that he has taken throughout his life: through economic necessity, academic pursuit, and personal tragedy. The serene, final shot shows Apu once again on the familiar journey. But this time proves to be different. He is no longer leaving - he is going home.
__________

Satyajit Ray's ability to move the audience without melodrama or emotional manipulation is a precise art. In depicting the life of a simple village boy in the early 1900's, Ray presents: the emotional struggle between cultural tradition and modernization, the vestigial effects of imperialism, the inescapability of social class. There are not enough words to describe the natural beauty and seamless cinematography of the Apu Trilogy. The films, like life itself, need to be experienced through all their joy and pain.


Devi, 1960
[The Goddess]

Devi opens with a static shot of an undecorated alabaster statue in the image of Kali, the goddess of creation and destruction, as the Hindu deity is excessively ornamented for a religious festival. On the eve of the festival, Umaprasad ("Uma") (Soumitra Chatterjee) brings his shy and beautiful wife, Doyamoyee ("Doya") (Sharmila Tagore) and nephew, Khoka (Arpan Chowdhury) to watch the fireworks display, and at dawn, follow the conclusion of the ceremonial procession to the river bank as the statue is cast into the waters. Uma will soon be leaving home to resume his university studies in Calcutta, and Doya is apprehensive about the prolonged separation. He reassures her that his pursuit of knowledge is a noble endeavor and convinces her to communicate her innate thoughts through daily letters. In Uma's absence, Doya passes the time by doting on young Khoka and attending to her pampered father-in-law, Kalikinkar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), who often calls her "mother" as a term of endearment. One evening, Roy receives a vision during a fevered dream that Doya is the reincarnation of the mother goddess Kali. Roy instructs his older son, Taraprasad (Purnendu Mukherjee) to bow at her feet, much to the shock and disbelief of Taraprasad's wife Harasundari (Karuna Bannerjee), and moves her sleeping quarters to the ground floor in order to be near his shrine to Kali. Soon, the news of Roy's revelation is disseminated throughout the village, and the crowds begin to gather at the family estate to pay homage or seek assistance from the goddess. A reluctant and weakened Doya sits immobile for hours receiving prayers from tribal priests and supplicants, compelled to obey Roy's divine vision out of reverence and duty. But when a young boy is seemingly healed by Doya's intervention, devotion turns to fanaticism, and Doya becomes a reluctant captive in the chaotic spectacle of Roy's delusion.

Satyajit Ray creates a harrowing and compelling portrait of idolatry, obsession, and fanaticism in Devi. From the opening sequence illustrating the adornment of the Kali statue, Ray presents a figurative analogy for the inevitable fate of the naive and trusting Doya as she, too, is manipulated and transformed into the image of the reincarnated goddess. Note that a similar phenomenon of religious sighting is depicted in Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria and also in La Dolce Vita, illustrating the universality of religious superstition. The repeated imagery of window bars, darkness and shadows, and veils and curtains reflect the pervasive sense of confinement, oppression, and unenlightenment within the household. By juxtaposing mysticism and religion, faith and hysteria, logic and superstition, Ray exposes the destructive power of ignorance in the absence of rational thought, and the fragility of spirituality in a decadent, selfish, and indulgent society.


Mahanagar, 1963
[The Big City]

A young girl named Bani (Jaya Bhaduri) diligently studies for her exams. Her father, Subrata (Anil Chatterjee) asks, "Is it worth it? You'll end up in the kitchen, like your mother." The words are intended to be a playful tease, but they speak volumes about the role of women in society. It is the early 1960s, and the concept of dual-income families is still alien to most households, even in the big city of Calcutta. But Subrata's income as a bank accountant is not enough to support his extended family. His father (Haren Chatterjee), no longer able to earn a living as a teacher, spends his days working on crossword puzzles, hoping to win the prize money awarded for its successful completion. He needs a new pair of eyeglasses, and keeps reminding Subrata to call on an old pupil who is now a successful optometrist in the hopes of obtaining his services for free.

Upon hearing that a friend's wife is working as a teacher, Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee) becomes convinced that she, too, should get a job, and secretly interviews with an affable, but savvy businessman, Mr. Mukherjee (Haradhan Banerjee) to sell knitting machines door-to-door. The idea of Arati going to work is met with disapproval and silent opposition by Subrata's parents, but the couple believe that buying a new pair of eyeglasses will help thaw his stubborn father's imposed 'cold war'. Arati proves to be a conscientious, hard working employee, and Mr. Mukherjee finds great potential in her, believing that she is destined for management. Meanwhile, Subrati's hypocritical father pays a visit to his former pupil, denigrating his son's financial situation, and is offered a new pair of eyeglasses as a token of his gratitude. When Arati receives her first salary, Subrati's father refuses her present, preferring to beg favors from former pupils rather than accept his daughter-in-law's financial assistance. As Arati begins to succeed in her profession, Subrata becomes increasingly threatened by his wife's financial independence, and asks her to leave her promising career.

Mahanagar is a deceptively lyrical, yet profoundly insightful examination of modern society: the obsolescence of cultural tradition, the financial instability of an emerging economy, the changing role of women. Using narrative perspective and graceful close-ups, Satyajit Ray portrays the gradual, often turbulent path taken by women on the road to independence and personal identity. Note the scene where Arati's physical posture shifts as she sees her salary reflected in the mirror, in essence, an external reflection of her increasing self-confidence. In the beginning of their employment, the assertive Anglo-Indian, Edith (Vicky Redwood) is elected to speak for the meeker sales staff composed of Indian women. In the end, it is Arati who becomes Edith's headstrong advocate. An early episode, showing Subrata and Arati having breakfast together, best captures the essence of social liberation in Mahanagar. Both parents eat their meals hurriedly before leaving for work. Neither one serves the other. They are seen as equals. It is a universal portrait of a contemporary family.




Charulata, 1964
[The Lonely Wife]

Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee), or "Charu" as she is affectionately called, lives the privileged life of the Bengali upper class in the late nineteenth century. She is highly intelligent and creative, but her social status limits her opportunities for personal growth, and she is left with empty diversions that provide little challenge: embroidering handkerchiefs, managing the servants, observing people in the street through a pair of opera glasses. Her husband, Bhupati (Shailen Mukherjee), an idealistic intellectual, is adoring and supportive, but is consumed by the publication of his new political newspaper - his "second wife" - and is unable to spend more time at home to be with her. In a deceptively innocuous scene, Satyajit Ray subtly exposes Bhupati's marital complacency when he literally passes by Charulata twice without noticing her. Charulata, disappointed by his unintentional snub, watches him walk down the hallway through the opera glasses. The camera zooms out, as if to reflect the growing distance between them. In an attempt to keep Charulata occupied, Bhupati sends his sister-in-law, Manda (Gitali Roy), who is content with passing the time by playing card games and engaging in idle chatter. When Bhupati's younger cousin, Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), a recent college graduate and aspiring writer, comes to visit, Bhupati enlists him to help cultivate Charulata's interest in literature. Charulata has an immediate connection with Amal, seeing him as an intellectual peer who shares a common love for the arts, and encourages Amal to pursue his writing. The two become inseparable, spending their afternoons in the garden - Amal writing in his journal, and Charulata playing on the swing. In an understated, yet emotionally revealing scene, Charulata teasingly spots a spelling error on Amal's writing with her opera glasses, turns away to see a mother and child at a window, then solemnly looks back to observe Amal's profile. Figuratively, she sees Amal from a different perspective, and realizes the impossibility of the situation.

Charulata is an exquisitely shot, sublimely haunting, and emotionally complex film on the nature of human relationships. At the heart of the conflict are three well-intentioned, sympathetic protagonists - Bhupati, Charulata, and Amal - who clearly love and respect each other, but realize that their individual actions have led to an unforeseeable, yet inevitable emotional betrayal. Satyajit Ray does not dilute the gravity of the situation with an act of adultery or violence, but with the subtle gaze of crushing realization and the heartbreaking weight of consequence: Charulata's concealed apprehension at Amal's arranged marriage proposal; Amal's guilt-ridden, sideways glance to Charulata as Bhupati reveals his business problems involving a relative; Bhupati's lone carriage ride. In the remarkable final shot (inspired by Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows) of Bhupati and Charulata's hands frozen in mid grasp, the words "The Ruined Nest" appear: the title of Rabindranath Tagore's short novel on which the film was based. It is a poignant reminder that life cannot continue as before - that something has been irretrievably lost from the relationship - and all that can be salvaged are the fragments of human decency that remain... the polite gesture.


Ashani Sanket, 1973
[Distant Thunder]

In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, Japan, having successfully secured and occupied Singapore, advanced the emperor's ambitious military operation to India's neighboring country of Burma. In response to the nation's aggressive Asian campaign, the British sought to regain and reinforce strategic Allied positions in the Pacific by stemming the tide of Japanese militarism, deploying troops to the region and, with them, diverting resources from the populous imperial colony. It is within the global uncertainty of this turbulent human history that a well-respected, educated man, Gangacharan Chakravarti (Soumitra Chatterjee) has decided to settle in a small, remote village of Natungaon in Bengal with his attractive young wife Ananga (Babita). As the only Brahmin residents in the entire rural village, Gangacharan and his wife are in an opportune position to exploit the immeasurable privileges afforded their socially prominent caste. To this end, Gangacharan has decided to open the first elementary school in the village in order to supplement his comfortable income as the only doctor in the area, and to further take advantage of his fluency in Sanskrit to serve as the town's ceremonial priest. His knowledge of modern science and traditional ritual soon proves auspicious when he is summoned to perform a sacred ceremony for a remote village in the naive hope that his prayers would spare the townspeople from a rampant outbreak of cholera that has already reached epidemic proportions in a neighboring village. Dispensing practical advice on disinfection and hygiene in an indigenously more palatable form of a mystical protection ritual, the humble villagers spare no expense in expressing their gratitude to the priest by showering him with a wagonload of food and assorted presents for his trip home. However, traces of the war's far-reaching effects into the lives of the unsuspecting villagers begin to surface when Ananga is stopped on the roadside by an indigent, elderly brahmin who begins to insinuate himself into the deferential, younger brahmin's graces by soliciting handouts and free meals on the pretense of visiting him to seek advice. As the rice shortage leads to soaring inflation and widespread rationing, the villagers soon resort to acts of self-denial, theft, banditry, and even violence as austerity, want, and despair become inextricably symptomatic of their increasingly subhuman daily existence.

Adapted from the novel by Bibhutibhushan Banerjee, Distant Thunder is a provocative and compelling examination of the devastating humanitarian crisis that resulted from the British government's deliberate re-appropriation of food and critical supplies to support the Pacific War campaign that lead to the man-made famine of Bengal in 1943 and ultimately resulted in the death of over two million people. From the opening image of a series of fighter planes flying in formation as they cast a shadow on the river while Ananga bathes (a curious sight that the heroine likens to a flock of cranes in flight), Satyajit Ray presents an implicit (and figuratively obtrusive) correlation, not only between a distant, foreign war and a politically isolated (if not disenfranchised) domestic population, but more importantly, the violation of nature through conceptually abstract, but integrally man-made devices. Ray further illustrates the violation of nature, not only through the repeated imagery of warplanes flying overhead (a seeming metaphor for imperial sovereignty over their native land), but also through anecdotal references to the skyrocketing price of rice, the appearance of an inscrutable disfigured man near a pottery kiln (whose scars were unintentionally self-induced - and therefore, essentially man-made - resulting from accidentally exploded fireworks), and escalating incidents of base human behavior. However, by focusing on Gangacharan and Ananga's humbling plight and continued perseverance, Ray transcends a purely social critique of the man-made famine in favor of presenting the resulting social egalitarianism that eschews class segregation in times of mutual hardship and common injustice. In the end, it is overwhelming sense of human interconnectedness that renews hope for the young, struggling couple: an enlightened awareness and true sense of place borne of compassion, altruism, sacrifice, and engaged social responsibility.


Jana Aranya, 1976
[The Middleman]

The Middleman opens with a shot of a disinterested proctor monitoring the History final examination at Calcutta University. A student hides a note inside a cigarette box and passes it to Somnath (Pradip Mekherjee), who chooses not to participate in the rampant cheating, and passes on the note to his childhood friend, Sukumar (Gautam Chakravarti). It is a foreshadowing of a career that Somnath will eventually undertake, but never seemed destined for. After receiving a mediocre grade on the history test (primarily because the professor could not read his small handwriting), Somnath's future is uncertain. He applies for every advertised job, only to be discouraged with the prospect of competing with 100,000 other applicants, or perplexed by absurd, unrelated interview questions. One day, he meets an old acquaintance named Bishu (Utpal Dutta), who encourages him to go into business for himself. Somnath wishes to discuss the prospect with his father (Satya Bandyopadhyay), but is greeted home instead with an arranged marriage proposal to the youngest daughter of a cement factory owner. Left with few alternatives, he calls on Bishu the following day to learn about the business of "order supplies", acting as an independent agent between the buyers and suppliers to sell any commodity from "pins to elephants". The Bengali word for the enterprise is "dalaal", and Somnath is apprehensive about its disreputable connotation of "p***". Bishu reassures him by using the more palatable euphemism, "middleman". Soon, he begins to furnish businesses with office stationary and table lamps, and finds an opportunity to sell optical whiteners for a sizable commission. He calls on Mr. Goenka (Soven Lahiri), the chief officer of Kejriwal textile mills, who refuses to make a commitment on the sale. Desperate, Somnath calls on Mr. Mitter (Robi Ghosh), a "public relations specialist" who shadows prospective clients in order to determine their weaknesses. He reports to Somnath that Mr. Goenka is willing to offer him a contract in exchange for the services of a call girl. Somnath is unsettled by the proposition, and defers a decision until the appointed confirmation call from Mr. Goenka on the following afternoon. Returning home, he is greeted by his sweet, understanding sister-in-law, Kamala (Lily Chakravarty), who reassures him of her support, and is left alone to choose between financial gain and moral consequence.

Satyajit Ray creates a clever, highly engaging satire on capitalism and moral integrity in The Middleman. Using incongruous imagery and lyrical narrative, Ray depicts the hypocrisy of economic prosperity and professional success. Somnath's daily trips to the employment offices invariably take him through city streets riddled with homeless people and beggars, under a graffiti sign that reads: "1971 is the year of victory". Mr. Shaha's (Santosh Dutta) description of a luxurious British colonial mansion is juxtaposed against a hypnotic, frenetic tour of a dilapidated building. Ironically, the potential sale of optical whiteners proves to be Somnath's darkest hour. Note the minimal, candle lit scene where a disillusioned Somnath alludes to his unpalatable task. The Middleman is a fascinating, contemporary parable on the corruption of the human soul, a poignant tale of an idealistic young man who stumbles into a corrupt world outside of his creation, and is swallowed into the chaos.


Agantuk, 1991
[The Stranger]

Anila Bose (Mamata Shankar) receives a curious letter sent from New Delhi, affectionately referring to her as "baby", presumably from her uncle, Manmohan Mitra (Utpal Dutt). Having left Calcutta immediately after his graduation when Anila was only two years old, Manmohan is eager to reunite with his sole surviving relative, imploring on her sense of traditional Indian hospitality to receive him into their household. Anila's husband Sudhindra (Depankar De) is skeptical of the upcoming visit, convinced that the author's impeccable Bengali could not possibly have been written by anyone who has spent the last 35 years traveling through Western countries as her uncle has reputed to have done, and urges her to send a telegram immediately in order to avert his intended visit under the pretense of leaving for a family vacation. Yet despite Sudhindra's reservations, Anila is intrigued by the possibility of meeting her long lost uncle, and strikes a compromise with her husband to accept the stranger's visit, and agrees to make an expedient assessment of his identity and ulterior motive. However, Manmohan's charm proves to be infectious, as Anila and her son Satyaki (Bikram Bhattacharya) soon find themselves captivated by his cultural sophistication and congeniality. Sudhindra returns home to find that Anila and Satyaki have already lost their objectivity towards the charismatic stranger, but reserves judgment on Manmohan's true identity until friends can surreptitiously question him. However, when a pragmatic and discourteous associate named Pritish (Dhritiman Chatterjee) seizes the opportunity to condemn Manmohan's personal beliefs and nomadic way of life, the family inadvertently alienate their captivating and enlightening guest.

The final film by Satyajit Ray, and one of only a few color films throughout his career, The Stranger is a compelling, provocative, and insightful film on the nature of humanity and social interaction. Visually, Ray captures Anila and Sudhindra using predominantly static, interior shots and graceful, slow pans to subtly reflect their self-imposed entrapment as a result of conforming to civilized behavior and societal norms, often at the expense of their ancestral heritage: the long shot of the living room as Anila reads Manmohan's letter to her family; Sudhindra's inability to leave the office to lend support for Manmohan's arrival; Pritish's caustic inquisition. In contrast, Manmohan's wanderlust is reflected through exterior shots of his train trip to Calcutta, taxicab ride to Anila and Sudhindra's home, and a park visit with Satyaki and his friends, punctuated by a glider plane in the background. As Manmohan amusingly assesses the contribution of civilization through the creation of the longest word in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, floccinaucinihilipilification - a jest word meaning to render something of little of no value - it is a reflection of his own life coming to full circle. Manmohan sought to refine his art studies, only to realize innate beauty in primitive cave paintings. He traveled to the West in order to advance his knowledge of civilization, and discovered that the essence of humanity resided in the customs of ancient tribes. Through the iconoclastic and erudite Manmohan, Ray encapsulates his profound concern for the preservation of humanity and cultural legacy in an increasingly modern and impersonal world: the union of savagery and civilization, tradition and westernization, obligation and compassion. It is a compelling final statement from a thoughtful artist and an enlightened human being.

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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:32am | IP Logged

Originally posted by SHUBHAMSG

Satyajit Ray : The only INDIAN ever to have received an ACADEMY AWARD .

Also I think the number of awards ( DOMESTIC or FOREIGN ) he received is more than all the awards received by the present film directors . That's how good he is .

OH and BTW , SATYAJIT RAY Bwas also one of the greatest music directors of his time , he used to design the costumes and the sets and also wrote the dialogues himself . He was trully a GENIUS in ALL fields.

And how can we forget the great writer Satyajit Ray - I think all bengali kids grow up reading 'Felu'da' and 'Prof. Shanku'... Brilliant characters.. brilliant descriptions.. As a kid, I could read Felu'da stories again and again - he was my first hero! As I grew up, I found that the Felu'da stories were lovely travelogues as well.. No one else has described those places so vividly!

And just not the writing, the marvellous illustrations in all his books were all done by Ray himself... I read somewhere that the initial sketches of Felu'da were different from what he looks like in the later books.. It seems, Ray was so much influenced by Soumitra Chatterjee who played Felu'da in Shonar Kella, that his later books actually potrayed Felu'da more like the actor....

HATS OFF TO THE GENIUS Clap

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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:40am | IP Logged
I dont know why , but I prefer PROFESSOR SHANKU over FELUDA . But these two are among my favourite fictional characters .
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:44am | IP Logged
Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon," said Akira Kurosawa. On the fiftieth anniversary of Pather Panchali, acknowledged as one of the greatest films ever made, Andrew Robinson, Literary Editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement, pays tribute to its maker through the book Satayjit Ray: A Vision of Cinema, illustrated with rare photographs by the filmmaker's Boswell, Nemai Ghosh. Connecting previews the tribute.

Satyajit Ray died on 23 April 1992 – on the same day of the year as William Shakespeare. When the coincidence struck me suddenly a few days later, I remember thinking: how curious, and then, after a moment's reflection, how fitting.

It was not that Ray, either in his life or in his films, was strongly drawn to Shakespeare (or indeed to the theatre, which was the art form that interested him least), in contrast to many Bengalis of his generation; there are only infrequent references to Shakespeare in Ray's many interviews, his copious writings – both fiction and non-fiction – and his more than thirty feature films. I was thinking, rather, of two aspects of Ray's films where a comparison with Shakespeare's plays is not far-fetched.

First, there is the subtlety and depth of Ray's probing of human relationships. As the writer and Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul, a lover of both Ray and Shakespeare, once said to me of Ray's The Chess Players: 'It's like a Shakespeare scene. Only three hundred words are spoken but goodness! – terrific things happen.' I believe that there is no director in cinema who can express what is going on inside a character's head – his or her psychology – more acutely than Ray.

Second, the exceptional range of milieu, period, genre and mood in Ray's work, from the celebrated Apu Trilogy of the 1950s to his swansong film, The Stranger, completed in 1991, recalls that of Shakespeare. Time magazine's critic probably had this uppermost in mind when he wrote in a survey of world cinema in 1963: 'Will Ray redeem his prodigious promise and become the Shakespeare of the screen?'

There are Ray films about almost all strata of society and walks of life: the upper class (for example, Kanchenjungha and The Home and the World), the middle class (The Big City, Days and Nights in the Forest), and the illiterate working class (The Postmaster, Deliverance). There are films about the village (for instance, Pather Panchali and Distant Thunder), about small-town life (The Expedition, An Enemy of the People) and about the metropolis Calcutta (The Adversary, The Middle Man). There are films about the distant past (as in The Goddess, Charulata), the past within living memory (The World of Apu, The Music Room) and the immediate present (Branches of the Tree, The Stranger). There are also pure comedies (The Philosopher's Stone, The Holy Man), fantasies (the musicals, The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha and The Kingdom of Diamonds), a ghost story (The Lost Jewels) and detective stories (The Golden Fortress and The Elephant God).

The worlds of art, the intellect, commerce, politics and religion are intertwined with a gamut of moods, often in one and the same film, ranging from tragedy to farce. And the standard is consistently high, by general agreement. 'Who else can compete?' concluded a full-page British national newspaper obituary of Ray (by no means wholly adulatory). 'Other names come to mind: de Sica, Ren Clair, Welles, Bergman, Kurosawa, Ichikawa, Kobayashi. Ray made more good films over a longer period than any of them.' Taken together, Ray's films seem to encompass a whole culture – that of the Bengalis: an achievement no other film-maker can match.

As if this were not enough, Ray also has a strong claim to be the most versatile craftsman in cinema behind the camera. The photographs in Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema by Nemai Ghosh (whom Ray described as 'a sort of Boswell working with a camera rather than a pen') show Ray personally immersed in every stage of film-making. He is writing the scripts of his films (they were all written solo, and were often original or near-original screenplays). He is designing the effortlessly convincing sets and costumes down to the smallest details. He is acting out the roles for the actors and actresses with consummate nuance. He is operating the camera throughout the shooting. He is editing each frame of the film. He is even composing and recording the music after scoring it in a mixture of western and Indian notation. Short of acting in front of the camera like Chaplin (which he was invited to do by Hollywood producers), Ray was in direct charge of just about everything in his films: he was the very model of a film auteur – something which amused him, given the studious distance kept from his work by the French New Wave critics and film-makers who first promoted the auteur concept in the 1950s. Ray liked to work in this way not because it helped to keep his budgets within manageable limits – though he had always to be keenly conscious of costs, given his comparatively small home audience – but because then he could truly call his work his own, in the same way as a painter, a composer or a novelist can.

His versatility is reminiscent of the artist with whom Ray felt a close, perhaps the closest, affinity: Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal's greatest creative figure. In addition to being a unique poet in Bengali, Tagore was a varied, original and profound short-story writer, song composer and painter, a considerable novelist and dramatist and a powerful essayist, besides being a stalwart of the Indian freedom movement. Beyond India, though, Tagore is still largely perceived as only a poet of mysticism on the basis of one collection of poetry, Gitanjali, which brought him the Nobel prize in literature. In somewhat similar fashion, Ray has tended to be typecast outside Bengal as an artist of poverty, on the strength of his first film, Pather Panchali, and its two sequels in the Apu Trilogy. Pather Panchali was probably the only Ray film that most of those who gathered in Hollywood to award him an Oscar just before his death, had ever heard of.   

Even among many who respond well to his films, there is a pronounced belief that Ray is not an 'innovative' director; that his work is fine but a bit old-fashioned and 'literary' (in other words, one assumes, static and talky); and, furthermore, that his best films are those from his first decade, the Apu Trilogy to Charulata (1964), when his style was evidently more lyrical and poetic. Since Ray himself sadly is no longer with us, making new films, and since his early films now tend to be shown more frequently than his later ones, this belief is in danger of becoming fixed as the critical orthodoxy.

Martin Scorsese, for instance, the most distinguished admirer of Ray among living American film directors (who played a key role in the awarding of the Oscar to Ray in 1992), saw the Apu Trilogy, The Music Room, The Goddess and Two Daughters when they were first released in the United States in the early 1960s, years before he himself became a director. Scorsese speaks of the Apu Trilogy as 'one of the great cinematic experiences of my life': 'I was as totally absorbed as one would be reading a great epic novel'. He was 'deeply moved' by the universality and humanity of these early films, despite their showing people 'so far from my own experience' – that of 'a very parochial society of Italian-Americans' in New York. And he was 'very taken by the style' – 'at first so much like the Italian neo-realist films, yet surprising the viewer with bursts of sheer poetry.' He concludes: 'Ray's magic, the simple poetry of his images and their emotional impact will always stay with me.'

How true. Yet all of these qualities – along with a greater complexity of cinematic language and subtlety of understanding of the human condition – are to be found too, if perhaps less obviously, in Ray's later films, which Scorsese hardly mentions. They are what justifies Naipaul's comparison of The Chess Players with Shakespeare, and they are the reason why Akira Kurosawa said of Ray: 'The quiet but deep observation, understanding and love of the human race which are characteristic of all his films, have impressed me greatly… Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.'

Ray's first film, Pather Panchali, released 50 years ago in Bengal, is a film that could only have been made by an artist in his youth; his last, The Stranger, is one that belongs ineluctably to the late evening of a career. Both films, however, though they are exceptionally different in setting, period and style, radiate life, charm and wit, visual and verbal; in fact The Stranger has been regarded, for all its seriousness, as a comedy, both in and beyond Bengal. And both films keep faith with Ray's cherished belief in the potential of individuals to transcend the limitations of their immediate world – a poverty-stricken village in Pather Panchali, a wealthy Calcutta household in The Stranger – and thereby to grow in self-awareness. As Lindsay Anderson wrote with his usual bold critical percipience, in a tribute to Ray on his seventieth birthday in 1991: '[He is] a film-maker in the honourable tradition of humanism, always making men and women, their lives and spirits and relationships, the inspiration of his art. Humanity has always been the politics of this artist. His style has always been formed by his vision.'

Andrew Robinson is the author of Satyajit Ray: A Vision of Cinema, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye and, with Krishna Dutta, of several books on Rabindranath Tagore. He is also the literary editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement in London.
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 8:21am | IP Logged
Music of Satyajit Ray
In the beginning of his career Ray worked with some of greatest music maestros of Indian classical music; Pandit Ravi Shankar for the Apu Trilogy and Parash Pathar (The Philosopher's Stone, 1958, Ustad Vilayat Khan for Jalsaghar (The Music Room, 1958) and Ali Akbar Khan for Devi (The Goddess, 1960).Since Teen Kanya (1961), he began composing the music for his films. "The reason why I do not work with professional composers any more is that I get too many musical ideas of my own, and composers, understandably enough, resent being guided too much", he said.

He would start working on music in very early stages of a production - sometimes as early as in the script stage. He would keep notes of the music ideas as they evolved. After completing the final edit, he would usually shut himself in his study for several days to compose the music. He meticulously wrote the scores in either Indian or western notation depending on musicians.

"... the pleasure of finding out that the music sounds as you had imagined it would, more that compensates for the hard work that goes into it. The final pleasure, of course, is in finding out that it not only sounds right but is also right for the scene for which it was meant". he wrote.

To him the role of music was to make things simpler for the audience. "If I were the only audience, I wouldn't be using music! ... I have always felt that music is really an extraneous element, that one should be able to do without it, express oneself without it", he said.

He experimented with mixing western and Indian elements in his scores. He composed a background music that belonged a particular film rather than to any recognisable tradition. In Ghare-Baire (Home and the World, 1984), he adapted western music elements along with Indian ones to complement the two influences on the characters of film.
Ray
Ray with his piano

ray
Satyajit Ray composing for Ghare Baire (The Home and the World, 1984) Nemai Ghosh
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 8:23am | IP Logged
You can get the music of Ray from Amazon
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000088E2P/026-7464 363-9245215

The Masterworks of Satyajit Ray  
Soundtrack Compilation (Artist)
The Masterworks of Satyajit Ray
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